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What It's Like to Have a Panic Attack in Class

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Another day in class, just a few more weeks till the end of the semester. I look outside around and see people talking. They make it seem so easy. I used to be like that once a long time ago. I enjoy social gatherings, but active participation is not the thing for me. Oh look, just 45 minutes till the end of the lecture.

Suddenly everything starts getting uncomfortable, an all-too-familiar feeling. My stomach feels unpleasant. My heart starts to beat fast. I can feel it. I can hear it! Can they hear it too? Now is really not the time or place. OK, I can handle this, it’s not that bad, calm down, just try to calm down… I’m thinking too much. If I keep this up it’ll only get worse. I need to stop thinking! Why can’t I stop thinking?

I am too afraid to look around and see if anyone is noticing me. Can they see through my smile? Can they hear what I am thinking? I wish the lights would go out and I could sit here and hide in the dark. I love the dark.

Why is this class so slow? I already know this. Why is the guy sitting next to me clicking his pen so loud? I really wish he’d stop doing that, why doesn’t he just cut it out? It’s really ticking me off! Why am I getting so upset over it? All the fear turns to annoyance in an instant. My heart beats faster and faster till I am screaming out in my head to cut it out. He doesn’t hear me! The impulse of telling him to cut it out is too overwhelming. Oh God, now the professor is asking questions. I almost say “speed it up!” Everyone is being so loud. I want to yell “keep it down.” I want to say a lot of things I don’t mean right now.

I try to take deep breaths, think of pleasant thoughts. I do everything I can to calm myself down without attracting any attention to myself. It feels like one part of me is trying to pin myself down while another more stronger part of me wants to do something I’ll regret. It’s not easy, but I eventually win the struggle. The annoyance turns into fear again. All the while I don’t change a single expression. I look perfectly “normal” on the outside, at least I hope I do.

I feel tired. My head hurts. I can’t remember the last time I went through the entire day without at least a single episode. I hear the pen again… Why can’t they cut me some slack? Just this once.

It’s been 30 seconds since my panic attack started… just 44 minutes and 30 seconds till the end of the lecture.

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Thinkstock photo by Purestock

Originally published: January 17, 2017
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